The Flash LIDAR and Its Effect on Consumer Electronics
Let’s take a look at flash LIDAR, a subset of LIDAR technology that is gaining popularity for its unique capabilities, especially in consumer electronics.
What is LIDAR?
Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) technology is a remote sensing method that uses light pulses or lasers to target objects and surfaces and measure the time it takes for the beam to return. By sending constant pulses and comparing the time measurements of each pulse with the next one, the system can tell a story about something that is changing, such as facial expressions or the activity surrounding a moving car. LIDAR is used for a wide range of applications, from improving car navigation systems and smartphone cameras to creating depth maps for augmented reality (AR) and surveying the Earth’s surface from airborne positions.
LIDAR systems consist of three main components: a light source, a system that directs the light, and a receiver (or “observer”), such as a camera, on which the beam falls when it returns. These components work together to generate data that enables virtual human perception of a constantly changing physical environment. LIDAR allows capturing physical motion through multiple vectors: in the case of LIDAR for cars, the rotation of the LIDAR device to scan in multiple directions simultaneously, the movement of the car it is attached to, and the movement of objects surrounding the car, such as a pedestrian walking in the direction of the car’s current trajectory.
Ansys Optics products, along with other offerings from Ansys like Ansys Mechanical, provide an integrated capability to design complex LIDAR systems from start to finish, with data exchange, ray tracing, system modeling, and predictive simulations from the nano to macro scale. In some applications, it is necessary to consider alternatives within the broader umbrella of LIDAR technology that allow for miniaturization. This is where flash LIDAR comes into play.
Flash LIDAR is a type of LIDAR that uses a single beam, instead of multiple beams, to detect motion. Building on what was explained in the previous blog, flash LIDAR includes a two-dimensional grid in a system that splits the light from the source and translates it into a data matrix, allowing the optical system to detect the flow of motion in surrounding objects.
In cases where motion tracking is needed within a small physical enclosure, flash LIDAR can be a beneficial option compared to traditional LIDAR. It is more compact because it eliminates the need for multiple beam projections. To compensate for the limitation of not using multiple beams to generate a complete image, a flash LIDAR system can be designed to spread its beam in a very specific pattern. It can also incorporate multiple light sources from a wider area to provide more descriptive data without enlarging the miniaturized size of the system.
2D point array
This expansion of LIDAR into miniaturized technology opens up new possibilities in consumer electronics for both users and developers. Examples of everyday applications of flash LIDAR include:
- Facial recognition capabilities in tablets and smartphones.
- Player motion detection with headphones in online gaming.
- User interfaces of mixed reality headsets based on physical gestures.
Just like with traditional LIDAR, Ansys products support the comprehensive design and development of flash LIDAR systems for the consumer electronics market, as well as other industries.
Tuomas Eerola, Business Unit Director for CAE, PDSVISION